BEIRUT–Lebanese Shia guerrilla group Hezbollah claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack against a military convoy in an Israeli-occupied border area. This is the biggest attack on Israeli forces by the group since a 34-day war in 2006.
“At 11:25 (0925 GMT) this morning, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel.
“There were several casualties in the enemy’s ranks,” it said.
Al-Manar said Hezbollah targeted nine Israeli military vehicles, and that it had killed “a large number” of troops.
A spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force said a peacekeeper has been killed in the attack. Andrea Tenenti said the UN is looking into the circumstances of the incident. He did not disclose the nationality of the soldier, but local media reports said he was a Spanish national.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that an Israeli soldier was captured in the operation.
Israel’s military refuted this claim, saying none of its soldiers were captured.
“The rumour of abduction has been ruled out,” Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman said. He however added that there were Israeli casualties in the attack, but did not elaborate.
Israel, which reported unspecified casualties on the Israeli side, responded by firing at least 50 artillery shells into Lebanon in a significant escalation along the volatile border. The military said it was responding with aerial and ground strikes on Hezbollah positions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond “forcefully.
On January 18, six Hezbollah fighters and a member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards were killed in an Israeli air strike on the Syrian-held Golan Heights.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is set to give his first speech since that attack on Friday.
The frontier area had been largely quiet since the 2006 conflict as Iran-backed Hezbollah engaged in fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war and Israel focused on the Gaza Strip, where it fought for 50 days last summer against Hamas militants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made security his top priority in a campaign for re-election on March 17, said: that “whoever is trying to challenge us on the northern frontier” should bear in mind Israel’s Gaza offensive last year.
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The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
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